US$12,000 ‘taxi fare’ compensation for Russia-bound traveler booked in Greek hotel
Mafengwo, with 100 million registered users, is competing with Meituan, Ctrip and Fliggy for recognition among Chinese travellers
Mafengwo, a Chinese online travel platform for booking hotels and flights, has paid 80,000 yuan (US$11,730) in compensation to a traveller after its customer service promised to reimburse the taxi fare between two hotels involved in a booking mix up, despite the fact that the hotels were in different countries and more than 10,000 kilometres apart.
On Sunday, a traveller registered as a male on Sina Weibo under the name of Ercunbuting said in a post that he was not able to check in to the Barbados Hostel in Vladivostok, Russia that he had booked on Mafengwo on August 15 because the platform mistakenly booked the Barbados Island Hostel in Greece.
Given that the Russian hotel was fully booked, the travel site’s customer service offered two options: accept 216 yuan as compensation or take a taxi to the intended hotel, which would be reimbursed upon presentation of a receipt. Mafengwo also promises the traveller a 100 yuan coupon as part of the make-up deal. The original Vladivostok booking for three nights from August 24-27 cost 658.9 yuan on Mafengwo, according to the traveller.
After making a second inquiry to Mafengwo customer service but being given the same options, Ercunbuting wrote on Sina Weibo that he was “furious” and intended to accept the offer for the reimbursed taxi ride to the hotel in Greece. Using Google Maps, the traveller calculated that the trip would be 11,730 kilometres, take more than six days by road, and possibly also involve a boat trip. A screen shot of the Google Maps route was posted on Weibo.
The post went viral, shared more than 8,000 times on the internet and eliciting over 4,000 comments so far. Several media outlets in mainland China also picked up the story.
In a subsequent post on its official Sina Weibo account, Mafengwo apologised to the traveller and insisted the dispute was only a “misunderstanding in communication”, adding that it was willing to fulfil its offer of a taxi fare from Vladivostok to Greece, which it estimated to be 80,000 yuan, without elaborating on how it came up with that amount.
“From now on, Mafengwo will compensate all users with three times the order amount when similar mistakes are made,” it said in the statement.
Responding to a media query, Mafengwo said it did not have anything further to add besides its statement on Sina Weibo.
Mafengwo, which claims to have nearly 4 million active monthly users and some 100 million registered users, is competing with bigger online travel operators like Meituan, Ctrip and Fliggy for brand recognition among mainland Chinese, who completed 145 million overseas trips in 2017, according to China Outbound Tourism Research Institute. China’s online hotel reservation industry saw monthly active users grow 20.1 per cent to reach 91.1 million in the second quarter of this year, the biggest quarter on quarter jump since 2016, according to Trustdata.
In a later Sina Weibo post, Ercunbuting posted a screenshot showing that the 80,000 yuan compensation from Mafengwo had been deposited into his account. The screenshot also indicated that Mafengwo refunded his original hotel payment, and paid three-times the order as compensation, as well as covering his costs for accommodation at another hotel in Vladivostok.
The traveller, who admitted on the Sina Weibo that he is unable to travel to Greece immediately due to the requirement for a valid visa, said he intended to return to Beijing first.
A text message sent to the Ercunbuting Sina Weibo account requesting an interview went unanswered.
Additional reporting by Sarah Dai